Last Updated: June 7, 2020
Now, that we’ve covered milk, salt, even citrus fruits and many more in our Produce Explained series, I hope you are more than familiar in the supermarket. For this round of Produce Explained, we will be tackling coffee.
Let me preface this by saying that coffee is a beast of a topic. The realm of coffee is vast and complex, from the variety of coffee beans you can buy, to the way you ground them, to how you brew those beans. I mean, brewing is a whole article by itself.
Then come the drinks and their countless combinations and iterations. You can even classify coffee by how it’s drunk in different regions—the list goes on. The coffee web is expansive and intricate, and it’s one that this single article cannot encompass.
To keep this article succinct, we have narrowed down the types of coffee that are found in the supermarket. Without further ado, here are 6 types of coffee you can find in the supermarket.
Before we get into it, here is a little backstory about the almighty coffee bean.
While the most recognisable form of coffee is the chocolate-coloured bean, coffee actually begins as a fruit—a cherry, I might add.
Similar to chocolate, the outer layer of these cherries are removed, then fermented and dried. Then comes the fun part, the roasting. Depending on where you buy your coffee or how fancy your coffee shop is, they might choose to roast the beans themselves.
The roasts would vary from Light, Medium and Dark, all which have their own characteristics and taste profile. The coffee wheel should give you an idea of how varied the tastes profiles for coffee can be. I know, who knew your coffee could have such extensive flavour profile.
As a non-coffee drinker myself, just investigating the different types of coffee in the supermarket was eye-opening and served as a teaser to the world of coffee.
As the name suggests, these are coffee beans that you can find in bags in the coffee aisle of the supermarket.
For coffee beans, there are broadly two varieties that you should concern yourself with: Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans.
Arabica coffee beans are the more desired beans since they are smoother and sweeter with a chocolatey flavour, while Robusta has a stronger, harsher and more bitter taste. The Arabica bean is also responsible for 60% of the world’s coffee and this was the bean that started the entire coffee movement in Ethiopia.
Even though Robusta is not as desirable in flavour profile, it is the hardier plant and more resistant to diseases and packs more caffeine.
Of course, since these are whole coffee beans, you’ll have to grind them yourselves. This is where it gets interesting: depending on how you like your coffee, that’s how coarse or smooth you’ll grind them. You can be as particular about this process as you like, and some people even like to buy their own grinder for this process.
If you are more of French press kind of coffee drinker, then you’ll want your coffee to be of coarser grain. Extremely coarse coffee would be for your cold brew. Remember how you like your coffee before you purchase your beans, otherwise, you might get too strong a cuppa or one that tastes like dishwater.
It’s up to you what kind of beans you like but generally, Arabica is preferred. Since Robusta has more caffeine than Arabica beans, it is commonly used in espresso blends.
Ground coffee has a similar texture to what you get when you grind your own coffee beans, but the difference is that this is already done for you.
Compared to coffee beans, ground coffee loses its freshness much faster. You’ll notice ground coffee is not as strong-smelling as coffee beans. That’s because ground coffee loses more than half of its aroma after being grounded.
Not to mention, the exposure to air increases oxidation rate, so the flavour of the beans gets bland. This is why ground coffee is usually much cheaper than the whole coffee bean.
The debate between using coffee beans and grinding them yourself versus ground coffee hinges on how much time you have in the morning and how much you are willing to spend on coffee.
After all, a coffee grinder is not cheap and you’ll need to invest in the right tools for the perfect cup of joe. I’d say if you aren’t fussy and are in a rush in the morning, there’s nothing wrong with ground coffee.
Instant coffee is pretty self-explanatory and probably the quickest way to get your coffee. All you have to do is add hot water and you’ll have a cup of joe.
Instant coffee is quite different from ground coffee; these are irregular coffee granules that are made by a process called freeze-drying. Basically, the beans are roasted and water is added to the coffee beans to produce a concentrated solution of coffee.
The liquid undergoes a process of freeze-drying, where they are rapidly frozen and dehydrated before they are broken up into smaller pieces.
Do I even need to say it? Besides your midday cup of coffee, instant coffee is the magic ingredient to create those frothy folds in a cup of Dalgona coffee. ‘nuff said
Capsule coffee is one of the latest coffee innovations. Not only does it make a cup almost as strong and fresh as using coffee beans, using capsules take up less time as well.
Also, I have to say the best parts of capsule coffee is seeing so many advertisements with George Clooney.
The reason why some people prefer capsule coffee is that once the coffee beans are roasted, the capsules are sealed immediately. This way, it prevents any deterioration of the coffee beans by preventing any contact with moisture or oxygen. So, the coffee tastes fresh and is almost as easy as instant coffee.
Another attractive quality of having capsule coffee is the assortment of coffee you can get from a single machine. From espresso to decaf, strong to mild—it’s almost like having a coffee shop at your fingertips.
The only thing about them is most likely the cost of the capsules.
Capsule coffee flavours run the gamut—you can have Turkish coffee one day and Italian espresso next, the choices here are capsule coffee’s strong suit.
Espresso powder might look indistinguishable from ground coffee and close to instant coffee, however, it is anything but. Espresso powder is much more concentrated than instant coffee.
Espresso powder is much more concentrated than instant coffee, so be light-handed when you are using this. Espresso powder is made from dark roasted coffee beans that have been ground, brewed, dried and then ground into a very fine powder.
With a much bolder flavour than your run-of-the-mill instant coffee, this is perfect for brownies or any chocolate dessert.
If you are trying any of our Stay-Home recipes that use chocolate, try adding a teaspoon of espresso powder into the mix. You realise how the espresso accentuates the chocolate and brings your dessert to the next level.
Okay, it’s not a true coffee but 3-in-1 coffee deserves a mention since it’s one of most sought-after bags along the coffee aisle.
This is convenience at its best—3-in-1 coffee does all the heavy lifting for you. Most brands will have already added in the creamer and sugar for you. So, all you need is to add hot water and scroll through Instagram while you wait.
The only supposed downside to this type of coffee is that they tend to veer much sweeter than other cups of coffee. You can’t really control the amount of sugar in this cuppa unless you want more, which is not something I would recommend.
As a non-coffee drinker, I wouldn’t even advocate for 3-in-1 coffee just because of the additives and sugars that go into a single sachet. The high amount of creamer and sugar is a sugar high and a fast track to obesity.
So, if you can, maybe skip the 3-in-1 coffee or opt for just instant coffee.
There you have it, a very basic road map to coffee in the supermarket. Again, this is as pared down as it can be but if you are interested, I suggest checking out James Hoffman on Youtube. His videos range from the more highfalutin side of coffee to something as accessible as instant coffee.